Skip to main content

Full text of "Poland Russia and Great Britain 1941-1945"

See other formats


was far away. In this camp, on the bare earth; lay those ill-clad and under-
led bands of Polish soldiers. Such were the conditions under which the
5th Infantry Division was to emerge."-*
Cazalet wrote a description of these camps in the December of that year*
"At Tockoje it was very cold, thirty degrees of frost, and there were some
twenty thousand Poles in this camp. Every man looked half-starved.
Their faces were grey, quite a different colour from those of ordinary people.
Most of them looked as if they had also been frost-bitten. They were living
in tents. There were no houses, no wood, except that which they pulled
down with their hands, no Y.M.CA. huts, no cinemas or shops, no town or
village to which they could go ... Many of then- companions had died of
cold or sheer physical exhaustion in their two long years of imprisonment.
66 Yet when these men marched by in their British overcoats, they showed a
spirit which was truly remarkable. They thought themselves in heaven
after two years in labour camps."
It was 'more than difficult to form divisions from such exhausted
people for the immediate action in the front line for which Moscow was
pressing. Armaments for this 5th Division arrived slowly, the guns,
without horses or carriages had to be pulled many miles into camp by
teams of soldiers. Their first task was to build dug-outs as some measure
of protection against the terrible frost which fell to forty degrees
Centigrade and even lower.
Yet in spite of these hard conditions, units began to form and the
training commenced. Ilya Ehrenburg, after accompanying Sikorski,
wrote :
" I have been for a week amidst the Poles; I have seen them parade in
the snow before General Sikorski. The men who marched past us showed
marks of deep sufferings, a great human drama was reflected in their eyes.
They had lost everything ! But they held their rifles with pride. I saw
grey-haired soldiers, with long moustaches, and very young boys kissing
the rifles they had just received. They were holding the weapons tight in
their hands with radiant happiness—as one holds a beloved woman."
Soon after the agreement on July 30th, Russian press and Moscow radio
began to appeal to the Polish people to raise a revolution in the rear of the
attacking German armies driving swiftly Eastward. In making this appeal
Moscow acted entirely in her own interests, and considered neither the
circumstances nor the interests of the Polish people themselves.* The
Polish Underground Army was organised to fight when the opportunity
arose. It was a type of army which could undertake a great deal, but only
under special conditions, and at the moment when the enemy's morale was
shaken. Then, and then only5 may the underground army appear on the
scene, and when it can within a few days, paralyse the enemy's communi-*
cations and liaison centres. Such an action had taken place in Poland in
1918> and it was for a similar battle that the Polish Underground Army
had been trained since 1939. But the Soviets were demanding that these
troops, armed at the most with a pistol or a few tommy-guns, without
* Dziennik Polski (Polish Daily), London, June 27th3 1942.
36